Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
Teams of Our Lady (www.teamsofourlady.org) is a Catholic lay movement which helps married couples improve their spiritual lives and strengthen their marriages. It began in France 80 years ago and has since become a worldwide movement, with 66,403 couples in 90 countries participating. The movement came to the U.S. in 1958, and today has 4,490 couples in 40 states.
“Marriage is of vital importance to our world, but today it is under attack,” believes Jorge Sousa, who with wife Noelia is a “super-regional couple” overseeing the Teams of Our Lady in the U.S. “Our Lady of Fatima told Sister Lucia that the devil’s final battle would be over marriage and family, and I think we’re seeing that now.”
The first four couples in the movement met in Paris in 1939 under the guidance of Servant of God Fr. Henri Caffarel (1903-96) and were known as “Caffarel Groups.” They later took the name Teams of Our Lady. Participants are interviewed and if accepted are asked to complete “endeavors”—which do not carry the same weight as obligations—including regular Scripture reading, daily meditation, conjugal and family prayer, a monthly “sit-down” with one’s spouse to discuss issues, a rule of life for personal improvement and annual retreats. Teams are groups of five to seven couples who meet regularly in one another’s homes to eat, pray and study their faith together.
Eva St. Clair and Ernie Tedeschi, a married couple with four children in Silver Springs, Maryland, are in their fourth year with Teams. Eva said that Teams is “like joining a monastic order.” She was looking to adopt a regular spiritual program in her home and discovered Teams “is exactly what we were looking for. All of the potential to become one in marriage can be unlocked in Teams. It has been life-changing.”
She and Ernie are part of a Team with four other couples and a spiritual counselor, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. Keeping up with the endeavors is a constant challenge, she admitted, but the benefits have been many, such as a new-found desire to share her faith. She explained, “Before joining teams, I didn’t feel the desire to evangelize. But since I did, I do have the desire. I want to go out and tell everyone, ‘There is a way to Christ through marriage.’”
Gricelda and Zeferino Farias of Whittier, California have been married for 23 years and have three adult children. Without Teams, Gricelda believes, she and Zeferino would be divorced. The pair oversee the Southern California region of Teams.
The first 10 years of their marriage was challenging, said Gricelda, as they struggled with such difficulties as alcoholism and infidelity. They wanted to give their marriage a second chance, she continued, so “we surrendered to the Lord and went through a healing process through programs within the Catholic Church.”
They wanted to heal their relationship and grow closer to God, so they joined Teams in 2013. Their Team has six couples with a wide range of backgrounds. It has been a blessing to their marriage, Gricelda said, and they look forward to meeting with the other couples in their Team. She said, “Teams has improved our communication as couple, our conjugal prayer life and our relationship with our Lord. The Endeavors have been essential tools to keep us together, centered and balanced in our marriage.”
Their children have also been pleased to see their parents getting along better. Gricelda continued, “They have seen our relationship flourish and our lives transformed. We are slow to anger, we are compassionate toward each other, we are transparent with each other, we go together where ever we go, we are more forgiving and eradicated the blame game, we dialogue instead of endless arguments.”
Their fellow couples in the team have been a major source of support, she said, “especially when a couple goes through major changes in life, such as a loss of a loved one, or financial crisis, or any other unexpected changes, we are there for each other in prayer and in many other ways to support each other.”
A Beautiful Gift
Noelia and Jorge have been involved in Teams for 22 years. Noelia calls the program “a beautiful gift,” and Jorge noted, “It has deepened our spiritual lives, both individually and as a couple.”
Their team has five couples, and Jorge’s brother, Fr. Manuel Sousa, pastor of their local parish in Turlock, California, serves as spiritual counselor. As the super-regional couple, they’re responsible for overseeing the 838 Teams in the U.S. They’ve been married for 37 years, and Noelia only wishes they’d known about Teams when they first were married. She said, “It’s one of the best kept secrets in the Catholic Church.”